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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

The Ballad of Bodmin Jail (Poem)

To hear this poem read by Swan Morrison, click here (2MB - mp3 format)

As I sat on the gallows at Bodmin,
A figure rose out of the ground.
I could see that the light passed straight through him,
And he moved without making a sound.

I glanced at the face in the guidebook;
‘You’re the ghost of the hangman,’ I said.
‘It’s the truth, sir, I am that there ‘angman,
An’ a ghost, on account of I’m dead.

‘Now fings was quite different in my day’;
He looked at the noose hung aloft,
‘We knew ‘ow to treat them there crim’nals:
Your justice ‘as gone bleedin’ soft.

‘We’d ‘ang ‘em for doin’ a murder;
We’d ‘ang ‘em for stealin’ a cow;
We’d ‘ang ‘em for gamblin’ on Sundays;
We’d ‘ang ‘em for breakin’ a vow.

‘Course some of ‘em might ‘ave been in’cent;
They may not ‘av broken the law,
But if there were doubts they was guilty,
We’d let ‘em ‘ang - just to be sure.

‘An’ it all made for great entertainment;
Thousands would crowd round and shout.
With the kids an’ the dog an’ a picnic,
It made for the perfect day out.

‘Cos I was a real master craftsman;
Me skill was the best you could know.
I dispatched ‘em real quick if I wanted,
Or slowly to give a good show.

‘One time it took ‘alf-an-‘our;
Such thrashin’-round you never saw.
I wish we’d ‘ave ‘ad action replays,
I ‘ated me muvver-in-law.

‘Most guilty, they never disliked me
Nor blamed me for doin’ ‘em wrong:
I made ‘undreds of mates on the gallows,
Though the friendships did never last long.’

He glanced at the clock on the jailhouse.
‘I’d best not be ‘angin’ around.
I’m sticking me neck out for staying this long.’
Then he melted back into the ground.